Pac-12 M5:11.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2012

  1. Pac-12 basketball exhibition games are generally meaningless affairs where a big school beats up on an overmatched foe while the former’s head coach tinkers around with different lineups and different styles. Usually the Pac-12 team wins going away and no one loses too much sleep about the result one way or the other. Still, valuable information can be gleaned from some of these games: Which returnee has made the biggest strides, which of the newcomers can make an impact early in their careers, and who is getting passed up for playing time? For Arizona, with three new and talented freshman big men, sophomore forward Angelo Chol is battling for a spot in the lineup and he’s had some struggles in the team’s two exhibitions. He’s missed some point-blank shots and has lost some confidence, but head coach Sean Miller is still relying on him to earn minutes while senior leader Solomon Hill is doing his best to keep Chol’s head in the game. Hill, on the other hand, was nearly flawless in his latest outing against Chico State (an Arizona win, 98-60) , with only a late missed free throw and a single turnover as blemishes on his performance.
  2. We’ve all got our favorite Pac-12 blogs, but one of my personal favorites is Coug Center. There are times when it seems like you’ve got to hunt down information about Washington State, and over the years I’ve found Coug Center to be by far the best place to keep up to date with all things WSU. While football is still king there (and a lot of other places) for the time being, Kyle Sherwood, Jeff Nusser and Craig Powers did a great job running down their thoughts on the upcoming season. In light of the Reggie Moore dismissal, topic number one was who will play point guard and they’ve got no better answer than anyone else, other than the fact that Royce Woolridge, DaVonte Lacy and Mike Ladd are going to be forced into a lot of minutes and a point guard-by-committee situation. Who knows, it could work, but just remembering Arizona State last year without any real point guard leaves plenty of room for doubt.
  3. We’ve talked in the past about Utah’s complete remaking of its roster, and there is little doubt that Larry Krystkowiak has upped the talent level there. But with many other programs around the conference improved as well, the question remains whether his new roster will result in additional wins. Based on a ridiculously week non-conference schedule, one would hope the Utes would be able to notch at least six wins prior to conference play, but can they improve on last year’s three Pac-12 wins? Many around the conference are picking Utah at the back of the pack — they were 12th in the preseason Pac-12 poll — but with capable offensive players like Jarred DuBois, Aaron Dotson and Jordan Loveridge as well as a deeper bench than the Utes have had in a couple of years, you can probably expect their improved talent to be reflected in their final record, even if they’re still almost certainly doomed to a lower-division finish.
  4. Back on the recruiting trail, UCLA landed three-star wing Noah Allen in the Class of 2013 on Tuesday. A one-time Harvard commitment, Allen certainly isn’t the type of player that head coach Ben Howland landed last year — Scout.com recruiting guru Evan Daniels calls him “a four-year guy” who is more of a long-term project than an immediate impact player. Interestingly enough, apparently Howland made the offer without ever having seen Allen play in person. We’re guessing that there won’t be any eligibility concerns with this prospect roughly a year from now.
  5. Lastly, we’ll hop across town where USC head coach Kevin O’Neill has named junior J.T. Terrell as the starter at the two-guard, beating out returning starter Byron Wesley for the job. Wesley is still expected to get plenty of run, both in relief of Terrell and at the other wing spot, but, man, sometimes the things that O’Neill says just makes you shake your head in disbelief. “He’s finally starting to play hard,” said O’Neill, inferring that for the longest time, Terrell wasn’t playing hard. O’Neill then went on to say that Terrell is “more intelligent than I thought he was.” Goodness. It makes you wonder if O’Neill thought he was complimenting the transfer player, or if he was going out of his way to get a few jabs in his ribs. Terrell’s certainly a talented offensive player, but you know in order to play for K.O.’s Trojans, you’ve got to be committed to give good effort on the defensive end. I would suspect Terrell’s defensive intensity, or lack thereof, is where these latest back-handed compliments stem from.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 7th, 2012

  1. In an election night shocker, word came out of Los Angeles last night that Shabazz Muhammad could be available to play in UCLA’s opener on Friday night against Indiana State. No Bruins fans, this breaking news doesn’t have anything to do with the NCAA clearing the heralded freshman but rather more to do with the fact that he may be ahead of schedule in his return from a right shoulder strain. You see, NCAA rules allow for a 45-day window during which players who are under NCAA investigation may play with their teams. And Muhammad didn’t get the clock started on that window until about a month ago. So, as long as his shoulder cooperates, Muhammad may have a chance to play in games against Indiana State, UC Irvine and James Madison, possibly even the Georgetown and Indiana games of the Legends Classic (although, really, don’t get too greedy, Bruins). As for his longer-term prognosis, there is still no timetable for an NCAA decision, although at least NCAA investigators did finally get around to talking to Muhammad’s parents last week.
  2. Just yesterday we ran off a list of Huskies pressuring Desmond Simmons for the starting four-spot for Washington. Well, news broke yesterday afternoon that one of those guys – Shawn Kemp Jr. – is out of the running for now, as he’ll be laid up for the next six to eight weeks as the result of a torn patellar tendon. As Lorenzo Romar put it, this injury “doesn’t impact the rotation, but it impacts a guy that was turning the corner.” In other words, the Huskies were planning on rotating four guys at the two big man spots. With Kemp’s injury, Desmond Simmons, Jernard Jarreau and Martin Breunig are all locked into significant roles alongside starting center Aziz N’Diaye.  Unfortunately, now Kemp, who was by all accounts starting to display a solid offensive game, will lose out on not only a couple months worth of practice, but will also miss out on the invaluable game experience and chemistry-building that occurs in the non-conference schedule. Still, he should be back in time for the conference slate, and unless Simmons, Jarreau or Breunig really impress, Kemp should have the opportunity to earn playing time once he returns.
  3. Another guy we talked about yesterday was Kaleb Tarczewski, the Arizona freshman center who had an impressive game in the ‘Cats first exhibition game against Humboldt State. Well, last night Zeus didn’t have quite as much success against Chico State, struggling to get any rhythm going, scoring just seven points, failing to grab a rebound, and fouling out midway through the second half. While he’s clearly got lots of upside, he’s going to be a work in progress throughout the year, while fellow freshmen Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley may be more apt to be serious contributors early.  The other big question for the Wildcats is how well Mark Lyons will fit in at the point, a question that may linger for some time. While Lyons did score 20 on seven-of-nine shooting last night, he only handed out three assists.
  4. Oregon wrapped up its exhibition season on Monday night with a 17-point win over Southwestern Oklahoma State that was largely unexceptional except for one point that is becoming clear: Dominic Artis is gonna be the man for the Ducks. Sure, E.J. Singler is a veteran who will do plenty of dirty work and make key plays for Dana Altman’s squad, but Artis led the Ducks in scoring in both exhibition games and had the ball in his hands all the time. So long as he can keep from turning it over, it appears that he’s going to get a long leash this season.
  5. For some reason, it seems like Mike Montgomery has been at California a lot longer than four years. But, in fact, his first year in Berkeley was Jorge Gutierrez’s freshman season. So, for the first time in his tenure there, the Golden Bears begin a season without their fiery guard on the roster. No matter though – Montgomery has a pair of veteran guards who are more than capable of filling in for the departed Gutierrez in juniors Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. Both are good scorers, and Cobbs in particular is relishing the chance to take over Gutierrez’s role as the team’s best perimeter defender, but Montgomery points out that they’ll also need to act as playmakers by getting other guys on the team involved in the offense. Case in point was last night in an exhibition against San Francisco State, as Crabbe, Cobbs and fellow veteran guard Brandon Smith combined to score 31 of Cal’s first 34 points. On one hand, that’s great production out of the starting backcourt; on the other hand, at some point you’ll need to get some kind of help out of your big guys.
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Pac-12 M5: Election Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 6th, 2012

  1. Hey, you might have heard about this presidential election thing that is happening today. What with the complete lack of commercials on television, advertisements coming in the mail and signs in front of my neighbors’ houses, I almost forgot about it myself, but I guess it’s true. Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson is the brother-in-law of the guy who currently holds that office, and while he’ll be heading to Chicago to hang out with President Obama and his wife Michelle tonight, the Beaver team doesn’t exactly get to play hooky. Instead, it is business as usual for OSU as it prepares for its opener Friday night against Niagara.
  2. Beaver fans got a good first glimpse of their team on Sunday night when Oregon State hosted Lewis & Clark in an exhibition at Gill Coliseum. The highlight for the coaching staff was the team’s defensive effort, especially from their four newcomers, as they held their opponent to 58 points in 68 possessions. Given how bad the team was on the defensive end last year, that’s a very good sign, even against a clearly inferior opponent. Unfortunately, even against a clearly inferior opponent, the team was not very good on the glass, allowing Lewis & Clark to grab 18 offensive rebounds (40.9% OR). Cleaning the glass on the defensive end was another significant weakness for last year’s team, so you can bet that improving there will be a point of emphasis in practice over the next few days.
  3. During the waning weeks of last year’s 6-26 season, there were some USC basketball fans (yes, a handful of those do exist) calling for the head of coach Kevin O’Neill. However, athletic director Pat Haden looked at all the extenuating circumstances and the overall direction of the program and determined that O’Neill deserved another chance. Now, with a roster almost completely remade by transfers and players returning from injury, the expectation is that the Trojans will be greatly improved. And, it had better be, writes Michael Castillo, because this season may determine O’Neill’s long term viability in Los Angeles.
  4. After playing last season with a starting frontcourt that featured a 6’7” Jesse Perry ostensibly playing center, Arizona is looking forward to life with an imposing frontcourt. The crowning jewel of Arizona’s top five recruiting class last season was seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, and he lived up to expectations in the Wildcats’ exhibition game with Humboldt State, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 boards while playing against an overmatched Division II opponent. However, for a guy whose role will be almost solely down on the block, he’ll still need to prove that he can score over, rebound against, and defend bigger and more athletic competition than what he faced last week. For instance, in the Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage, “Zeus” struggled against the tougher competition, picking up three early fouls as he adjusted to the speed of the game. While he’s got a bright future ahead of him, it remains to be seen just how quickly he’ll develop in the desert.
  5. With stars Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross gone early to the NBA draft, Washington may not be in rebuilding mode but they do have plenty of questions that need to be answered in the early part of the season. Percy Allen picks the five biggest ones, asking who is going to help Aziz N’Diaye rebound the basketball, and a related question, who is going to be the fifth starter? Desmond Simmons started the Huskies’ exhibition game, but he’s got three different guys – Shawn Kemp Jr., Jernard Jarreau, and Martin Breunig – all chasing him for that spot. Another big question is whether the new and improved chemistry around the program could help their defensive weaknesses. Part of their struggles on defense last year could be tied back to Wroten’s tendency to gamble and find himself out of position, but his athleticism and playmaking abilities were undeniable. Senior Scott Suggs will be taking Wroten’s spot and could be a defensive upgrade in that position for UW.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 5th, 2012

  1. Perhaps the most tantalizing events of the preseason practice schedules are the “secret scrimmages” that take place between teams, apparently under the cover of darkness. Fans and media aren’t allowed to attend, but sometimes you get some great matchups between significant teams with the caveat that no one is supposed to talk about these games. Jeff Goodman at CBS posted a list of some of the secret scrimmages that different teams have played, but perhaps the biggest bout came yesterday. Just prior to the time that UCLA was blowing the doors off of Arizona at the Rose Bowl in front of a near-capacity crowd, the Bruin basketball team was across town hosting UNLV in front of, well, really just the players, coaches and training staff. You’ll never see a box score for this game, but the story is that the Bruins pulled away from the Rebels in the second half of that scrimmage for an 18-point win. My prayer to the basketball gods at this point is for these teams to meet up for a rematch, right around the Sweet Sixteen somewhere. And, hey, it might be interesting if super-recruit Shabazz Muhammad is allowed to play in that one.
  2. Kyle Anderson was able to play in that exhibition game and he’s now ready to go for the rest of the year, where he is expected to team with Larry Drew II to man the point guard spot for UCLA. While Drew is the more traditional point, Anderson is very much the playmaker with all the offensive skills that any coach is looking for in a point. Still, at 6’9” and with some defensive limitations, Anderson will likely spend much of his time this season guarding either the opposing small forward, or whichever opposing wing is the least fleet of foot. Expect Anderson and Drew to spend a lot of time on the floor together, but when Drew goes to the pine, the Bruins could be just fine playing two other wings alongside Anderson – either Muhammad, Norman Powell, Jordan Adams or the presently injured Tyler Lamb.
  3. The exhibition game is basically a secret scrimmage than ain’t so secret and also ain’t so appealing, normally coming against teams from lower divisons. Utah knocked out its exhibition game on Friday night with a rout of Simon Fraser. Sure, the competition wasn’t much, but considering that the Utes lost to Adams State last year in an exhibition, this is definitely progress. Sophomore center Dallin Bachynski, who in the wake of the career-ending injury to David Foster will be counted on in a big way this season, led all scoring for UU, dropping in 16 and grabbing six boards on the way to a 71-36 final. Utah’s season opener is Friday night, and, frankly, the competition isn’t all that much greater then when they host Willamette University. The difference then will be that a win on Friday night will actually count on the record.
  4. There has been plenty said about Arizona’s gifted incoming freshmen, but what makes the Wildcats the preseason favorite in the conference is their combination of young talent and veteran leadership. The most obvious leader for Sean Miller’s club is senior forward Solomon Hill, who has been warning the youngsters against getting too caught up in the numerous social opportunities available to them in their new environment. Last year, highly touted point guard Josiah Turner saw his career in Tucson wash out in a haze of misaligned priorities and Hill wants to make sure his new group of teammates doesn’t run into a similar situation. The vet’s presence on the team should ease Miller’s mind, knowing that not only does he have a coach on the floor in Hill, but he’s also got a coach off the floor to help keep his players out of trouble.
  5. With expected starter Ricky Kreklow out for the start of the season with a foot injury, it looks like California coach Mike Montgomery will look to freshman guard Tyrone Wallace to play a big role early. While Wallace won’t step into Kreklow’s starting spot, he will be the first guard off the bench and the head man has plenty of confidence in him, saying that so far Wallace has been as good as advertised. While his best chance at a bright future may come manning the point, right now Wallace is earning time at all three perimeter positions and should be a fixture in Haas Pavilion for years to come.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on October 26th, 2012

  1. The Washington Huskies had their first exhibition game two nights ago and knocked off Western Washington, 88-78, a much closer result than expected. Washington only committed 14 turnovers but couldn’t manage to pull away from the Vikings until the very end of the game. Abdul Gaddy struggled early, but redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews tallied 14 points to carry the team in the first half. Gaddy picked it back up in the second half and finished with 14 points as well. More importantly was the play of C.J. Wilcox, who led Washington with 21 points by shooting 7-14 from the field and grabbing seven rebounds. It’s October and it’s an exhibition so fans should not put too much stock into the margin of victory, but it was still a little too close for comfort.
  2. CBS came out with its top 30 freshman in America and, somewhat surprisingly, Shabazz Muhammad was listed as third behind Nerlens Noel of Kentucky and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State. After Muhammad comes his other currently questionably-eligible teammate, Kyle Anderson at #4. Brandon Ashley of Arizona is the next to make an appearance on the list at #15 and then Jahii Carson of Arizona State lands at #23 followed by Grant Jerrett at #24. Carson will have an impact at Arizona State, but that slot seems a bit high for him. Yes, he’s an athletic, great ball-handling guard, but other players like Josh Scott of Colorado or Kaleb Tarczewski of Arizona could have a bigger impact than him.
  3. CBS also ranked its  top 25 transfers, and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons, now at Arizona, was ranked as the number one transfer. It’s hard to argue with this call considering Lyons will be a key cog for this Wildcat squad. He’ll take on the point guard spot for Sean Miller and should have a much larger impact than Josiah Turner did last year. Only two others from the Pac-12 made the list with Larry Drew II of UCLA coming in at #20 and Evan Gordon of Arizona State at #24. Those both seem like justifiable choices, however, leaving J.T. Terrell from USC  off the list is questionable, especially considering the fact that these same people listed him among the top 100 players in the nation. Terrell should play a big role for USC this year and although  he might not be the most notable player, he should still be on this list.
  4. UCLA’s number one recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, injured his shoulder on Wednesday at practice, and the results of his MRI came back yesterday. Muhammad will be out of action from 2-4 weeks with a shoulder strain. The injury is to his non-shooting shoulder, but it’s still a bad injury to have for a player of Muhammad’s caliber and just another thing to go wrong for the Bruins. Exactly two weeks from today, UCLA starts its season against Indiana State and while no one expected Muhammad to be declared eligible in time for that game, this effectively seals the fact that the year will begin without Muhammad in uniform. If everything breaks just exactly perfect for UCLA and Muhammad, he could make his debut in Brooklyn at the Legends Classic, but really, at this point, that is little more than wishful thinking.
  5. Hey, hey. Andrew stepping in here to take over the last bit of the Morning Five from Parker today, just because I wanted to gloat a little bit. Connor and I have been going back and forth all year picking every football game involving a Pac-12 team, and, well, ever since Washington State laid down for BYU back on the opening weekend of the seas0n, Connor has been kicking my butt. Wait. Actually, check that. Let’s make that “had been” kicking my butt. After week one, I was two games back. Just a week later I was down four. But, I didn’t panic, nailed the Stanford over SC upset, then came back a week later to take Washington over those same Cardinal, and by last Saturday afternoon when David Shaw’s bunch was wrapping up a victory in The Big Game, I had come all the way back AND taken a one-game lead over my foe. So, yeah, I’m spiking the ball a little bit harder these week, but I’m saving my touchdown dance for the final whistle, because we’ve got a pair of games this weekend on which we differ. Picks below, including our game of the week in bold. But, really, how can I lose to a guy who was so wrong about last week’s game of the week that he missed the final score of Oregon’s win over Arizona State by a whole six points?
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Colorado at Oregon Oregon Oregon
    California at Utah California Utah
    Oregon State at Washington Oregon State 28-17 Washington 21-20
    UCLA at Arizona State UCLA UCLA
    USC at Arizona USC USC
    Washington State at Stanford Stanford Stanford
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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 22nd, 2012

  1. We’re still three weeks out from actual basketball games taking place, but more and more it is starting to feel like this is just not going to be UCLA’s year. Aside from the NCAA investigations into recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, the cheap accusations of cheating by certain unnamed media outlets, and the legitimate questions about how some of these pieces fit together, the Bruins are also starting to see some injuries accrue. The newest Bruin laid up is junior forward David Wear, who sprained his right ankle in a practice yesterday, joining junior guard Tyler Lamb (arthroscopic knee surgery) in the infirmary. Of course, the glass-half-full view of this situation could be that it is much better to have these types of things happen now than in February or March. As it is, a simple sprained ankle could just mean a bit of a rest for Wear until the seasons kicks off on November 9.
  2. It didn’t take long for the newest Cougar, Oregon-transfer Brett Kingma, to pick up on how things are done in the Washington State basketball program; early Saturday morning, the sophomore guard was arrested by Pullman police for marijuana possession and “minor exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol in a public place” – an oddly specific and yet still confusing charge. Now, we understand there isn’t always a whole lot to do in Pullman, but the marijuana busts for WSU’s basketball program are getting ridiculous. In recent years, off the top of my head, Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto have all been busted for pot. There are two ways for Cougar head coach Ken Bone to deal with this: (1) mostly ignore, offer an obligatory slap on the wrist and pray that Initiative 502 passes, or (2) make an example of Kingma by kicking him off the team. I’m certainly not saying the second option is necessarily the best approach, after all, really what is this arrest about – a college kid was walking home drunk after a Friday night partying and happened to have some dope on him. Stop the presses, right? But the fact of the matter is, this constantly happening in Bone’s program is becoming a black eye.
  3. Arizona unveiled the 2012-13 version of its basketball team to its fans on Sunday afternoon with their annual Red-Blue game. Prior to an intrasquad scrimmage, the school honored its 1988 Final Four team and members of the current team got to meet and learn from previous Wildcat greats like Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler. The game itself was less of a no-defense All-Star game than a hard-fought scrimmage, but Nick Johnson (who our own Parker Baruh nominated as the Pac-12’s breakout player) got hot, hitting four threes and finishing with 20 points to lead all scorers while also chipping in four assists. New Wildcat point guard Mark Lyons also added four assists, while senior wing Kevin Parrom added four three-pointers of his own. Arizona Desert Swarm has some video highlights of the game and the surrounding festivities. But perhaps the biggest part of the day was UA hosting at least eight recruits, including Aaron Gordon, whom Sean Miller (and other coaches around the country) seriously covet. Given that the 2011 version of the Red-Blue game helped the ‘Cats land Kaleb Tarczewski, the game is becoming a way of tying the great history of the program to its bright future.
  4. Arizona wasn’t the only school holding events for their fans this weekend. Stanford held its Friday Frenzy event on, when else, Friday evening, featuring its annual Cardinal-White scrimmage, a dunk contest, and various other events. Oddly enough, the winner of the dunk contest wasn’t even a member of the basketball team, as senior All-American high jumper Jules Sharpe took home the title, edging out junior forward Josh Huestis. As for the scrimmage, junior forward Dwight Powell (our Kevin Danna’s pick for the Pac-12 breakout player) led all scorers with 19 points, getting it done not only from the perimeter but also on the block. It was sophomore guard Chasson Randle, who had 16 points on seven-for-nine shooting, however, who had the last laugh, leading his Cardinal team to an eight-point win over Powell’s White squad.
  5. Lastly, Arizona State’s Maroon-Gold scrimmage was Saturday afternoon, giving Sun Devil fans their first chance to see the long-awaited debut of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. Early reports are that, behind Carson, ASU looks like it may live up to Herb Sendek’s promises of a drastically increased tempo. Carson led all scorers with 18 points in the game, while newly eligible transfer Evan Gordon also impressed. The game featured three different 10-minute periods, with Carson splitting time on each team over the course of the scrimmage, but one good takeaway for how important he’ll be to ASU is the fact that whichever team he was on wound up winning each of the three different periods.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 12th, 2012

  1. One of the things we love about college basketball is that every year, there are loads and loads of teams with brand new looks. You’ve got freshmen coming in and transfers and kids back from injuries. The entire makeup of a team can change from year to year, for better or for worse. This year in the Pac-12 is no different, but in some cases, these changes seem to be a bit more extreme than normal, with several teams across the conference ready to unveil a completely remade roster. Today, as practices kick off around the country, we’ll take a look at five of those teams, beginning with Utah, where second-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak welcomes in a roster that returns just two scholarship players from last year’s 6-25 team. Given the depths to which the talent level plunged in Salt Lake City last year, the remake was desperately needed, and Krystkowiak is certain that the team is ready to be much more competitive. With 10 new scholarship faces on the roster, the battle for time is tight and ongoing, with the head man mentioning that the Ute starting lineup may be a shifting five over the course of the year.
  2. As bad as the Utes were last year, USC was even worse, limping (quite literally) home to a 1-17 record. Along the way, the Trojans turned into the walking wounded with dozens, if not hundreds, of players (overstatement is of use here) lost for the season to injury. But not only does Kevin O’Neill have many of those players coming back from last year’s injuries, but he’s got transfers galore and, all told, plenty of talent up and down the bench. Never one for understatement, O’Neill last season called then sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon a future NBA lottery pick, while this year he is going out on a limb and projecting Rice transfer Omar Oraby as a future 12- or 13-year pro, although USC is still waiting on word from the NCAA as to whether he’ll receive a waiver to be able to play this year. But O’Neill is most excited about getting back the services of senior point guard Jio Fontan, whom he calls the heart and soul of the team.
  3. Washington State’s 2011-12 season was slightly more successful than either of the above teams’, but like both USC and Utah, the Cougs will unveil a new-look squad as well. Brock Motum returns after his breakout junior season, as does returning starter DaVonte Lacy and four other players, but things are going to have to be different in Pullman this season. But despite being minus recently-dismissed point guard Reggie Moore, head coach Ken Bone thinks this will be a better team than last year, with the combo of Lacy and Kansas-transfer Royce Woolridge being an upgrade over the would-be senior. And Bone hopes that the Cougs’ underdog status will help the squad “pull together.” Reading between the lines a bit, it seems I may not be the only one who thinks the loss of Moore could turn out to be addition by subtraction.
  4. Oregon advanced to the NIT last season, but after five graduating seniors and three freshmen transferring out of the program last year, the Ducks were in need of a talent infusion of their own. Enter a five-man freshman class, two junior college transfers, and Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi (who is appealing to the NCAA for immediate eligibility), and returnee EJ Singler, for one, is excited about the additional size and athleticism added to Dana Altman’s roster. The number of new players could jump to nine once the football season ends, assuming freshman Arik Armstead joins the team in January, but the number could have even been 10. However, junior college transfer Devon Branch opted not to enroll at UO for the fall semester, instead opting to go the Division II route, which would give him one more season of eligibility than he would have had in Eugene.
  5. The roster makeover for Washington is not as massive as in any of the above four stops, but the Huskies are without their two highest profile stars from last season’s Pac-12 regular season champion. Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. left eligibility on the table when they split for the NBA, but it was no secret that last year’s squad underachieved in part due to chemistry issues that never got fully resolved. Lorenzo Romar commented on Twitter that this team has the chemistry and attitude that the coaching staff appreciates, a remark that seems to draw a direct comparison to last year’s squad. Put on your special glasses and it might as well read: “last year’s team had no chemistry because there were too many guys worried about getting the credit.” There’s still plenty of talent up in Seattle, with proven upperclassmen Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye leading the way, so if the intangibles shift a little in the right direction, the 2012-13 edition of the Huskies could be an improvement on last year’s more talented squad.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 11th, 2012

  1. Arizona State’s media day was on Tuesday, and as always, the ASU sports information department does a great job of getting their information out there. As ASU’s director of media relations Doug Tammaro put it, he’s got over 5,000 words on the Sun Devil basketball team, with tons of quotes from head coach Herb Sendek and players Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon. Given the fact that the team is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons (22-40 in the last two years), the Sun Devils have a lot to prove, but just reading through the enthusiasm that Sendek has about this collection of players and the confidence that Carson has in himself and his teammates, it isn’t that hard to envision this team overachieving its way into an upper-division conference finish. A lot would have to break right for that to happen, and the team needs to break through the Murphy’s Law culture that has seemingly taken hold in Tempe, but this ASU team should be an interesting watch all year long.
  2. Elsewhere in Tempe, Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic published an interview with ASU sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling on Sunday, and it too paints a picture of a Sun Devil squad ready to surprise people. Gilling, who came out of nowhere to start 18 games for the team and score in double figures eight times in conference play (quite an accomplishment as no better than a third option on a low-scoring team), looks around the roster and sees far more threats to give the opposition problems. Beginning with Carson and Gordon, but also extending to rapidly improving big man Jordan Bachynski and another incoming transfer in Bo Barnes, Gilling sees a completely different team. And, once again, we’ve got testimony from inside the program that Sendek’s promises for a more uptempo approach, including significantly more man-to-man defense, are not just lip service.
  3. Up in Pullman, Washington State is ready to plow ahead without the services of recently dismissed point guard Reggie Moore. Moore was head coach Ken Bone’s first recruit to WSU, but there is no use looking back now for him; he needs to begin to plan for the season without an obvious true point. At first glance it appears that it will be a point-guard-by-committee approach, with sophomore combo guard DaVonte Lacy, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge, senior wing Mychal Ladd and sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew all potentially chipping in to help get the Cougars into their offense. And, while we’re on Wazzu for a second, be honest, how many of you knew that former Oregon wing Brett Kingma landed in Pullman? Clearly, some of you did, but somehow this completely escaped my attention. It’s a good get for Bone, even if his freshman year in Eugene was a little bumpy and even if he’ll lose a year of eligibility by transferring within the conference.
  4. UCLA’s media day was yesterday, but it was significantly less revealing, if only because the biggest question about the Bruins’ season – if and when Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson will be declared eligible – remains presently unanswerable. So much so that UCLA had their vice chancellor of legal affairs, Kevin S. Reed, monitoring the press conference so that schools officials could remind the media whenever necessary that they wouldn’t be answering any questions about the NCAA review of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility. On a brighter note, however, it was announced that Pauley Pavilion is not only really, really close to being a completed project, but it is also a project that came in $44 million under budget. So, you know, the next time you’ve got a project that is gonna run you some nine-digit dollar amount, I believe UCLA’s got a contractor they can recommend.
  5. We’re back to the gridiron tonight with a less-than-stellar Thursday night affair between Arizona State and Colorado, and that means it is time for Connor and I to renew our prognosticating battle. I made up another game on Connor last week when USC bounced back from a rough start to pull away from Utah in the second half. Last week’s results leave Connor at 35-13 for the year, while I’m two games back at 33-15. Below are this week’s picks, with our predicted scores for our game of the week (Stanford at Notre Dame) in bold.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Arizona State at Colorado Arizona State Arizona State
    Utah at UCLA UCLA UCLA
    California at Washington State Washington State California
    Oregon State at Brigham Young Brigham Young Oregon State
    USC at Washington USC USC
    Stanford at Notre Dame Notre Dame 38-31 Notre Dame 19-13
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Pac-12 M5: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 10th, 2012

  1. It’s that time of year where various pundits and prognosticators are breaking out their predictions for what is going to happen this season. We’ll do it ourselves here at RTC in the coming weeks, but on Monday the guys at CBS unveiled a ton of predictions, including conference winners, Final Four teams (including the eventual champion), players, coaches, and freshmen of the year, and the top 100 players in America. Arizona fans are most in love with Doug Gottlieb’s picks at this point, as the newest member of the CBS college hoops crew not only picked the Wildcats to win the conference and advance to the Final Four, but to win the whole thing. Along the way, Gottlieb tabs Sean Miller as the coach of the year and Brandon Ashley as the freshman of the year. Of the five experts polled, three picked Arizona to win the conference, with the remaining two choosing UCLA, reaffirming what has been the consensus since April – it’s likely going to be a two-team race at the top of the conference.
  2. Meanwhile, Rob Dauster of NBC Sports is definitely not in the UCLA camp this season. In unveiling his preseason top 25, the Bruins checked in at #25, possibly the lowest spot you’ll see them ranked prior to the season tip-off. His reasoning? Shabazz Muhammad hasn’t yet been cleared, Joshua Smith is still in poor condition and the situation at the point is still muddy – sound points all. Until we get word on Muhammad’s status and until we get a chance to see this team on the court a few times, the Bruins will remain one of the most controversial teams out there. The mere fact that there is such a wide range of potential extremes for the Bruins – this is a team that could be a Final Four team if things go well, or a underachieving mess if key questions fail to get answered sufficiently – will keep the spotlight squarely on the team from Westwood.
  3. Athlon Sports, however, sort of splits the difference on Arizona and UCLA. In unveiling its top 20, the Wildcats and the Bruins are the lone Pac-12 entries, with the Bruins checking in at #12 and the Wildcats at #7. For Sean Miller’s team, Athlon sees Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill as more or less givens, with the development of the ‘Cats four frontcourt underclassmen – sophomore Angelo Chol and freshmen Kaleb Tarzewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett – ultimately determining just how far the team can go. On the other side, Athlon sees the same questions marks for UCLA as Dauster does, they just have a slightly sunnier outlook for the Bruins. We’ll continue to check in with more predictions as they roll in.
  4. Way back in June we had the opportunity to talk with Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek, and one of the interesting bits of information he dropped was that he expects his team to “play as fast as anyone” in the Pac-12. Given his track record (in the past decade he’s never been higher than 209th in the country in adjusted tempo), we were a bit skeptical. But, with speedy and athletic point guard Jahii Carson ready to make his long-awaited Sun Devil debut, all signs point to ASU being committed to an uptick in tempo. Does that mean you’re going to see ASU rip off something like 70 possessions a game as Washington regularly does? Probably not. But expect to see the Sun Devils try to turn defensive rebounds into opportunities for Carson and guys like Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon to get out into the open floor. But, if ASU is unable to score in transition, they may settle back into the type of halfcourt offense we’ve come to expect from Sendek, resulting in perhaps a couple more possessions per game than last season.
  5. Way back in April, right around the time that UCLA was making news by landing Muhammad, Washington slid under the radar a bit by signing junior college transfer Mark McLaughlin, a two-guard who led all JuCo players in scoring last season with an average of 28.4 points per game. Hailed as a potential offensive spark for a Husky team losing quite a bit of firepower, he seemed primed to fit in perfectly with Lorenzo Romar’s attack. But then, early in August, McLaughlin announced he was leaving the team. Last week he reappeared, this time showing up at Central Washington, a Division II program. As Percy Allen details, this is the seventh college that McLaughlin has been tied to. The long, strange trip began when he committed to Washington State as a senior in high school, before de-committing and signing with Nevada. However, prior to going to college, he stopped off at a prep school for a year before backing out of his Nevada commitment and signing with Baylor. Then, prior to the season, he bailed on Baylor, transferred to Seattle University and actually spent two years there: a redshirt year and then an unimpressive (and delayed) freshman campaign. From there he headed off to his one year at Tacoma Community College (last year’s stop) before committing to Washington. Long, long, long story short: the Huskies are probably better off without the drama that McLaughlin was sure to bring.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.09.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 9th, 2012

  1. Way back on April 11, Shabazz Muhammad signed with UCLA, guaranteeing Ben Howland one of the year’s best recruiting classes and boosting the hopes of Bruins’ fans. While there have been some good moments since then (such as when Tony Parker eventually committed to UCLA as well), now nearly six months later, the Bruins are on a bit of a losing streak even though they have yet to play a game. They learned yesterday that returning starter Tyler Lamb will miss at least a month while recovering from knee surgery. Throw that on top of the NCAA investigations into Muhammad and fellow recruits Parker and Kyle Anderson, along with bad news from Joshua Smith’s scale, and there is some concern as to where this season is going. However, on the bright side, Lamb will likely be back soon after the season begins, and even if UCLA plays without him for a handful of games, sophomore guard Norman Powell should be ready and willing to step in and use the available minutes to make his case for more playing time.
  2. As for the other question marks mentioned above, UCLA fans are hoping to get some positive answers. First, on the matter of Joshua Smith’s diet, once again progress is being reported. Though there is still no one that will actually go on record with a three-digit number meant to accurately represent his weight, Smith claims that his body fat percentage is down from 25% when he came to campus two years ago to just 17% today, with a future goal of 10%. Still, at this point, especially given last year’s often lackluster effort, college basketball fans will largely take a wait-and-see approach to Smith’s waistline. Meanwhile, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson have begun preliminary workouts with the Bruins despite the fact that the NCAA has yet to rule on their eligibility. This means (correct me if I am wrong) that for the next 45 days, these guys are eligible to practice with the team and play in games. Once those 45 days expire, either they must be cleared or they must stop working out with the team until their investigations are resolved. The scuttlebutt is that Anderson will be cleared by the NCAA (although, until that actually happens, Bruins fans have every right to be nervous), while any guess on Muhammad’s eventual status is just that, a guess.
  3. Lamb’s knee surgery isn’t the only big injury news around the conference. California head coach Mike Montgomery announced on Monday that sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow underwent surgery on his right foot and will be out of action for up to two months. Kreklow transferred into Berkeley after spending one season at Missouri, where he shot 28.3% from three in limited minutes as a freshman in 2010-11. After sitting out last season per NCAA rules, the former Mr. Basketball in Missouri in 2010 was expected to jump into the Golden Bear starting lineup this season as a three-point shooting specialist, but instead will have to serve as a midseason reinforcement. Coupled with the transfers of guards Alex Rossi and Emerson Murray this offseason, the Bears now find themselves slightly shorthanded in the backcourt, with returning starters Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe being joined by Brandon Smith and freshman Tyrone Wallace. The injury could mean that instead of employing a three-guard starting lineup of Cobbs, Crabbe and Kreklow, Cal could opt to go bigger along the front line. Stay tuned.
  4. Last week, the consensus #1 player in the 2013 recruiting class, Jabari Parker, narrowed his list of potential schools down to five. This is important for Pac-12 fans for a couple of different reasons. First, and foremost, Stanford is one of the quintet of schools remaining as possible landing spots for the versatile wing. Johnny Dawkins already has commitments from the Allen twins (Marcus and Malcolm), but adding an elite recruit the level of Parker would bring a whole different level of recruit to The Farm. The other bit of interest about Parker involves Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who apparently was shown on a Salt Lake City television station talking about Parker, a potential NCAA violation. However, Rob Dauster argues that since the Utes no longer stand a chance of landing Parker (the Utes are not among his final five), Krystkowiak can get off on a technicality. Still, the coach should know better.
  5. It’s not all bumbles and stumbles along the recruiting trail for Krystkowiak, however, as the Utah head man continues his pursuit of Michael Williams, a 6’2” point guard out of Texas. He just finished an official visit with the program last week and now will decide between the Utes, TCU and Penn. The fact that those are the other schools in on Williams’ recruitment indicates that he’s not likely to be a player who makes a huge impact, but he is a bigger lead guard than anybody currently on the roster with Glen Dean and Brandon Taylor both checking in under six feet. Krystkowiak already has a couple 2013 shooting guard commitments, while also chasing Las Vegas point guard Julian Jacobs and southern California lead guard Brandon Randolph.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 8th, 2012

  1. We’re back to do the Morning Five five days a week again, with an eye towards games tipping off just over a month from now. However, for many Pac-12 fans around the country, the question of how and where to watch many of the basketball games this season remains a big question mark. The Pac-12 Networks have been live for months now, but many television viewers, particularly customers of the nation’s largest satellite television provider, DirecTV, are still shut out. The conference and DirecTV have been going back and forth since late August over terms of a proposed deal, but with football season chugging along and basketball on its way, it appears likely that DirecTV is ready to be stubborn as long as necessary in the hopes that the Pac-12 caves. Jon Wilner is as good of a go-to guy as there is on this topic, and he not only sees through DirecTV’s fact-challenged statements and loaded proposals, but fully expects that any changes to the situation are not readily approaching. In other words, if you’re a Pac-12 basketball fan and you’ve still got DirecTV, it is time to explore other options.
  2. After Reggie Moore’s promising freshman season, it looked like Washington State was not going to skip a beat after the graduation of Taylor Rochestie. However, after lackluster sophomore and junior campaigns that failed to ever show serious improvement over his rookie year, Moore was dismissed from the Cougar basketball team, as we detailed a couple weeks back. To put a bow on Moore’s WSU career, the mercurial point guard sent a statement to columnist Vince Grippi at The Spokesman-Review, owning up to an unnamed “costly mistake” that led to his dismissal and apologizing to the university and its fans. He’s still in school working towards a degree, with eyes on a future in basketball at some level. These kinds of things always have that bittersweet feel to them. On one hand, you hate to see a collegiate career end like this, but on the other, given the fact that Moore has had some disciplinary problems during his time at Pullman, you hope he uses this event as a wake-up call to get his act together. He’s been a frustrating player to watch over the last couple of years, but at this point, I’m sure there are many Pac-12 fans, including this writer, who are hoping for Moore to make the best of a bad situation.
  3. Another veteran Pac-12 player’s senior season is over before it even began. In Thursday’s Morning Five we mentioned that 7’6” center David Foster of Utah reinjured the same foot that kept him out of action last year and will have to undergo surgery that will keep him on the sideline again this year. But, rather than disappear into the ether, on the sidelines is exactly where Foster will stay. Citing the strong chemistry between the largely new roster in Salt Lake City, Foster will sit on the bench during games and do whatever he can to help out the young team, albeit in a non-playing role. Foster still hopes to have his foot recover well enough so that Utah’s all-time lead in blocked shots can pursue a professional basketball career overseas.
  4. We’ll have a more comprehensive recruiting post later in the week, but we wanted to mention Tad Boyle’s latest signings at Colorado. After getting a commitment from 6’5” three-star wing Tre’Shaun Lexing at the end of September, last week Boyle got a commitment from 6’8” power forward Dustin Thomas out of Texarkana, Texas. Thomas is a four-star talent according to ESPN, a skilled big man capable of playing the pick and pop game or defending and rebounding inside. Along with guard Jaron Hopkins, these two make for a strong three-man class already for the Buffs, which is getting to be a habit for Boyle. Boyle credits the fact that he has been able to consistently send guys off from Boulder to play professionally as part of the reason for his recent success on the recruiting trail. With former Buff Alec Burks entering his second season in the NBA and with six of the seven graduating seniors over the last two years playing professionally somewhere (the lone non-pro is Trey Eckloff, who is pursuing a law degree), Boyle can certainly sell the fact that four years in Boulder preps basketball players for professional careers.
  5. Lastly, it was announced last week that former UCLA great Bill Walton has agreed to a book deal. The book will be named Back From the Dead, and knowing Walton’s history, not only in Westwood, but including his high school career in San Diego, his injury-riddled professional career including a tumultuous time in Portland and his off-the-court adventures in and around the counterculture, this is going to be a must-read. Pac-12 fans will get plenty of chances this season to reacquaint themselves with Walton, as he has agreed to work with both ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks in doing color commentary on Pac-12 games.
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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 10.04.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 4th, 2012

  1. We’re still about a week out from the start of practices, but Utah already has to recalibrate its plans for the year, as 7’3” fifth-year senior David Foster reinjured the foot that kept him on the sidelines last year and will prepare to undergo another surgery on that foot next week. That surgery will not only keep him out of action this year, it effectively ends his career as a Ute. Foster, who goes down as the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 219, was never much of an offensive threat, but his size and shot-blocking ability made him a force on the defensive end. Minus the services of Foster, the Utes still boast plenty of size, but instead of 6’10” senior Jason Washburn starting out at the four opposite Foster, he’ll have to man the post, with 6’9” junior power forward Renan Lenz likely being bumped into the starting lineup. The Utes will still feature plenty of size, however, with 7’0” center Dallin Bachynski being the obvious choice to eat up many of the minutes vacated by Foster.
  2. While it has become common for schools to celebrate the beginning of basketball practice with a Midnight Madness event, Arizona’s got a little tradition of their own. The Red-Blue game, an intrasquad scrimmage and hardwood festival, this year will also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1987-88 Final Four team, with luminaries such as Lute Olson, Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, Kenny Lofton, Tom Tolbert, Sean Rooks and Matt Muehlebach all expected back in Tucson for the event. Throw in the fact that it will be Wildcat fans’ first good look at newcomers like Mark Lyons, Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley and Gabe York on a team that could put all of the pieces together to make its own Final Four run, and Sunday, October 21 is a date to circle for UA fans.
  3. California head coach Mike Montgomery picked up his third commitment for the Bears’ 2013 recruiting class Tuesday. Ransom Everglades point guard Sam Singer chose the Bears over Harvard, NC State, Stanford, and USC, among others. Despite the fact that Singer might be behind California’s first two commits (Jordan Matthews and Jabari Bird) in scoring and athleticism, his passing ability and decision-making makes him a good candidate to see early minutes as a freshman. As Rob Dauster points out, the Miami native does have a solid three-point stroke, but with Brandon Smith playing his final season in Berkeley this year, there is no question Singer’s ability at the one spot will be much-needed. Now with three guards in the Class of 2013, Montgomery will likely turn to a big man to fill out the slate.
  4. It’s preview magazine time, which behind playing actual games is one of the best parts in the college basketball year. Percy Allen gives a quick breakdown of Athlon‘s thoughts on the Pac-12 in this post. Of note is their pick of Arizona to take the conference crown, which is all the sudden becoming the trendy pick instead of the all-star UCLA squad that Ben Howland has assembled. The Bruins are projected to finish second, just ahead of the two Bay Area schools to round out the upper third of the league.
  5. So, after five weeks of college football, Connor holds a three-game lead in our prognostication battle. Drew shaved a game off his deficit with a pair of solid picks in Washington and Arizona State, but Oregon State came through in the desert to prevent a huge disaster on Connor’s side. Picking the game of the week proved to be a quandary in week six. Washington-Oregon wins out, being a rivalry between two Top 25 teams, but oddly, every other game will likely be closer than that one. Make sure to tune in to tonight’s battle in Salt Lake City, as it is the only pick that we differ on. Here’s our picks for this week, with our game of the week pick in bold:
Game Connor’s Pick (32-11) Drew’s Pick (29-14)
USC at Utah Utah USC
Washington State at Oregon State Oregon State Oregon State
Arizona at Stanford Stanford Stanford
UCLA at California UCLA UCLA
Washington at Oregon Oregon 45-24 Oregon 53-27
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